When you mix an athlete, a nerd, beer, and good ingredients this is what you get.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pulled Pork and Spinach Eggs Benedict

This morning, Katie invited Rob, Laura, and Hayley (6 months old) over for brunch. We had some leftovers from the ribs earlier in the week so we decided to make pulled pork Eggs Benedict. I'll keep this short because Katie is in the middle of cooking dinner (it's this weeks Chopped@Home so stay tuned) and I'm getting hungry. Toasted English muffins on the bottom, then the pulled ribs with the peanut barbecue sauce, spinach sauteed with garlic, a poached egg, and hollandaise to top it off. The hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter with a bit of lemon juice, cayenne, salt and pepper. I explain emulsions a few posts back (filet mignon post I think). We had Katie's hash browns to go with this and some bacon that didn't quite make it to the photo. Katie explains the hash browns back in the corned beef hash recipe, this is very similar but without the corned beef.

Check back soon to see what Katie created with four secret ingredients I found in our kitchen (teaser: one ingredient is Vanilla Chobani! hah). 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grill-out Night... In March

It was 74 degrees today... in March... in Medford. Grilling outside with a few beers just sounded perfect. We had a rack of ribs from McKinnon's in the freezer so we thawed them out and made a rub to work into them. The rub was salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, ginger, garlic powder, paprika, and an herb mix we had in the pantry. We rubbed that in and poured Guinness over it to cover the rack. Oven @ 250 for 3 hours.

Then they looked like this.

Next, I made some BBQ sauce because we didn't have any Sweet Baby Ray's on hand (my personal fav). I started making the sauce with some of the leftover hot sauce from Chopped@Home on Friday. I started adding some spices and decided I wanted to add some ground cloves, but I added way too much accidentally. Now I had something way too spicy that tasted a bit too much like an apple pie. I had to get creative...

I needed something to cut the spices so I added some of the Guinness that it cooked in, a ton of ketchup, peanut butter and a splash of half and half. Thai barbecue sauce - not traditional, but not bad. We slathered the ribs in the sauce and charred them a bit on a hot grill to finish them off.

Katie made some brussels and a baked potato. The brussels were oiled and grilled with some garlic and salt and pepper. I was craving boxed mac and cheese but wanted real pasta so I made mac and cheese with some penne rigate and boxed mac and cheese mix.

Delicious meal, beautiful day.

St. Paddy's Corned Beef: The morning after

Ouch. Too. Much. Beer and Baileys and Whiskey...

I woke up this morning with a headache and an idea. I'd never made corned beef hash before, but I've been told half the reason you make corned beef and cabbage is for the leftovers, and corned beef hash sounded like something I just had to try.

I'll give you a quick recap of how we made the meal the night before. McKinnon's Market in Davis Square was the obvious choice for the traditional gray-cured Irish Corned Beef. We got a 6.5 lb Brisket, threw it in a big roasting pan with three cans of Guiness, and put it in the oven for 4 hours. About 2 hours in, I added 6 chopped potatoes, 2 quartered onions and two purple-top turnips left over from Chopped@Home. With an hour to go, I sliced up a whole bag of carrots and threw those in, and with 30 minutes left I added a head of cabbage, cut into eighths. We served the dinner to 5 of our not-so-sober friends and it actually came out a lot better than I thought it would.

So on to this morning. We had plenty of leftovers of the whole meal, but I only used the beef and potatoes for the hash. I started with a finely chopped onion (about a cup) and sauteed it in butter until translucent. Then I cut up the beef into tiny cubes (about 1 1/2 cups) and threw that in the pan. I roughly chopped up the leftover potatoes into about 1/2 inch pieces and threw those in last. I added an extra pad of butter, spread out the hash across the pan and pressed it down with a metal spatula. The trick is to leave it to sizzle and get brown for about 5 minutes before you touch it. Then flip everything over, press into the pan with the spatula again and let it sizzle again. 

It took about 15 minutes total to get brown and crispy, and while it cooked, I threw some bacon on and fried up some eggs. Topped it off with my famous bloody marys (the recipe for which will probably never end up on the blog) and by the time we finished eating, we were actually feeling like real people. 

"This is the best breakfast I've ever eaten." -Anthony Rotio

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chopped@Home 2: Chicken Thighs, Cheddar Cheese, Purple Top Turnips, Frozen Waffles

Last night I was up for Chopped@Home. Katie met me at the grocery store and dropped the proverbial bomb on me: "chicken thighs, cheddar cheese, purple topped turnips (??), and frozen waffles." I thought for a bit about options, incorporating waffles into a dough and making some type of chicken pot pie, use the turnips as potatoes... oh wait, cheddar. I was kind of at a loss so I just started grabbing flavors that might work with the other stuff, within a few minutes I settled on some type of chowder but that was about all I had.

Half way home it materialized. Buffalo chicken served in a deep fried turnip bowl with broiled cheddar on top, a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallions. I surrounded the buffalo chicken bowl with a homemade cheddar corn chowder with chili waffle crisps floating on top. Sounds kind of crazy, it kind of was, but it made sense in our mouth.

Katie invited Kit and Kaylin over so I had the added pressure of guests. It was set to be a challenge.

First thing I did was hollow out the turnip halves and popped them in an oven to cook them through (til fork tender). I was treating them like potatoes because they aren't really something I cook with every day. Then I threw the chicken thighs on a griddle pan to brown them, then turned it down and let them finish cooking right there on the stove.

Oh wait, I have no hot sauce...

Luckily we have some pickled roasted cherry peppers in the fridge from about a month ago. I threw the pickling juice from that into the food processor with some fresh cherry peppers and half of a tomato. Added some melted butter and tasted it. Sweet buffalo sauce was the outcome and it was so good that we saved the leftover (I decided an empty Rolling Rock bottle was the best container last night...).

I brought that up to a simmer, pulled the chicken off of the bone and let it finish off simmering in the sauce until everything else was done (but don't leave it too long and overcook it if you try this bc I can easily see that happening).

Meanwhile, I had to make the chowder. I rendered some bacon off in a pan, removed it, added onions, corn, bell pepper, let them cook til tender. I added the bacon back in with a little chicken stock and some water to cover the veggies. Then added about a cup and a half of half and half to cream it. Some black pepper finished it off.

Last thing to do was deep fry the turnip halfs and put it all together. Came out pretty good...

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Katie's making corned beef and cabbage today, we're both wearing green, and started drinking at 9, people coming over soon. Setting up to be a good day!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chopped@Home 1: Ground Pork, Haricot Vert, Camembert, Chardonnay

For obvious reasons, Rotio and I are somewhat obsessed with the show Chopped. If for some ungodly reason you've never seen it, you should get on that. It's highly addicting and for a while now we've wanted to bring a Chopped challenge to our own kitchen. So now that we actually have our own kitchen, it was time.

Last week we flipped a coin and decided I would be up first to cook, and Rotio would pick a "basket" of ingredients from this list. We chose the date and time (last night at 5:45pm) and met at the front door of Shaws, where my "basket" ingredients were revealed to me:

Ground Pork
Haricot Vert (green beans, since Shaws isn't that fancy)
Camembert cheese

30 minutes to shop for ingredients. GO!

I stood in the produce section for the first five minutes, thinking through some possible menu options... Pork and chopped green bean wontons with a camembert dipping sauce... "ham"burger topped with camembert and green beans...Pasta with pork meatballs and a Camembert Alfredo sauce...

I settled on:

Pork meatballs, sliced pears and toasted bread served with a Camembert fondue for dipping and a side of "haricot vert" in a blackberry chardonnay vinaigrette.

Yeah, fancy. All that in 60 minutes. GO!

I started with the meatballs, which I've never made before. In a bowl I combined one package of ground pork, about a quarter of an onion, really finely chopped, one garlic clove, 1 cup of breadcrumbs (I thought I had a can of breadcrumbs but didn't and had to spend 5 precious minutes making them in the food processor, ugh!), 1 egg and salt and pepper. I decided I wanted them to be slightly sweet, so I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 2 T of cloves. I smushed everything together in my hands until combined and rolled it into 1 inch balls. It made 18 meatballs, which I threw in a wrought-iron skillet with a little olive oil. I browned them up, about 5 minutes on each side, and then poured 3/4 cup of hot chicken stock in the pot and turned it to low to simmer. I turned them every 5 minutes or so to keep them moist throughout, and left them there to cook through while I started the fondue.
Now, cheese fondue I've done before. It's sort of a traditional special meal in my family and I've made it from scratch before, but never without a recipe. So I started with 2 T of olive oil and 4 minced cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan. I let the garlic get a little too brown, but it ended up giving the fondue a roasted garlic flavor which actually worked really well with the camembert, so I'd probably do it again. Then I added 2 cups of chardonnay (two ingredients down, 2 to go!). I let it get hot and then started mixing in 8 oz of grated gruyere cheese that I had tossed in about a 1/4 cup of flour. (You want to add the cheese a little at a time so it melts evenly, and the flour will start to thicken it up). Once the gruyere was melted, I started adding the camembert in little chunks I pulled off with my fingers. It melted beautifully. So creamy and pretty, and all I had left to add was a tsp of truffle oil to finish it off. 

The green beans were the easiest part. I just steamed them and tossed them in my vinaigrette--2 T olive oil, 1 T of this amazing blackberry balsamic vinegar I got for Christmas, and 2 T of chardonnay. Sprinkled a little salt and pepper on top and called it a side dish.

I plated the meatballs with some chunks of toasted french bread and sliced pears and attempted a fancy presentation worthy of the judges' table. I own a fondue pot, which made the whole meal really work since the fondue stayed hot while we dipped...

So, did I get chopped? Ummm, NO. The meal was a hundred times better than what I expected from myself. The  meatballs were so juicy and flavorful, and the cloves really worked with the camembert. If there was a flaw, I'd say I could have incorporated the green beans a little better (maybe put them IN the meatballs...ooooh) but really, it was DELISH. Wish we could have shared it with others!

New House, New Kitchen, Whole New Ballgame

It's four months later and we're back. Katie and I are in a new house with a beautiful kitchen and we've been making some amazing food. Our friend, Ed, from the gym told us about an awesome meat market close to wear we live, great quality and really cheap so we've been hitting that up quite a bit.

For one of our first meals I made asparagus, filet mignon with bearnaise sauce, and homemade french fries with a roasted garlic rosemary aioli. 

The filet is pretty easy, get a skillet hot with a little olive oil and garlic, add the beef, salt, pepper, rosemary, a minute or two on each side to get the outside as crusty as you want then pop it into a 350 oven for about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. A little longer if you want it medium.

Bearnaise starts with reducing half dry white wine and half white wine vinegar with some tarragon and shallots (I used onions because that's what we had). Once that's reduced let it cool and throw it in the blender with 3 egg yolks. Slowly add melted butter to make an emulsion. Don't add it too fast or it'll break and separate! Hold it warm until you're ready to serve.

Fries. These came out really well for my first time. Cut up some russets, put them in ice water for 10 minutes to remove some of the starch. Bake at 375 until they're fork tender. Let them cool. Deep fry in really hot oil, - I cranked it - until they're crispy.

The aioli is pretty similar to the bearnaise. Once you make one emulsion you can pretty much make any emulsion. I smashed garlic that I roasted with some salt and rosemary. Blended it with egg yolks. SLOWLY added olive oil until it started to emulsify -- Ok what the hell is an emulsion, by that I mean once the fat and the egg starts to appear to combine and get thick, mayo is an emulsion, think of that consistency. Basically, an emulsion is just tiny drops of one liquid suspended in another that usually don't combine, that's why you have to use a blender or beat it really aggressively to get the drops small enough to "get caught" between the other liquid's molecules, science lesson for the day, back to food. Added a little lemon juice for flavor and to thin it out. Continue adding olive oil until you've reached the desired flavor and consistency. 

This is just the preview post, though. Katie's about to put one up that we're pretty excited about. We decided to start doing our own version of Chopped on Fridays. One of us picks an ingredient set from an old episode of Chopped, then we go to the grocery store. This week Katie was up to cook. I picked an episode and I told her the ingredients once we were in the store. She had 30 min to come up with a recipe and shop at the same time and an hour to cook. Check back to see how she did...